Cigar City Brewing: A tour and a pint!

I have one more place from my weekend that I want to share with you.  On our way out of the Tampa area on Sunday, we stopped for a 1pm brewery tour at Cigar City Brewery, which is in a warehouse off of Lois Ave near the airport.

For a mere $5.35, you get a brief but interesting tour of the brewery, a pint of beer of your choosing, and a souvenir pint glass.  If you are at all into craft beer, this is a great cheap thing to do while you’re in the area.  Cigar City has some of the best beer in the state, if not the country!  They do all kind of fun experimental things with beer.

We arrived about 10 minutes early and started off in the tasting room, where we paid our tour fee, chose our beers, and grabbed a seat to wait for the tour to start.

Tadd and I both got Maduro Brown Ale, my brother Ryan got a Minaret ESB (pictured above, with his complimentary souvenir pint glass), and my friend Carrie got a Xenu Cream Lager.  I love Maduro!  I get it often when I’m at Oblivion Taproom.  It’s a very deep dark brown ale that is full of flavor but not as heavy as you would expect from a darker beer.  Everyone else seemed to enjoy their selections.

Before we were finished our beverages, we were called to the brewery entrance to start the tour.  We were provided with classy eye protection, and anyone with open-toed shoes was required to wear blue sanitary booties over their feet (TIP!  Wear closed-toed shoes!).  Also, we were allowed to take our beer with us to enjoy during the tour.

The place isn’t very big, but it’s still interesting to see how it all works.  It was especially neat to think that every Cigar City brew I drink will originate right there in that room.  Our tour guide was really friendly, informative, and funny.  I loved that the tour was surprisingly multi-sensory, as we were allowed to smell a canister of hops and chew on a few of the malted grains that are used in beer production.

We were also allowed in the freezer store room to see all of the kegs ready for shipping as well as other ingredients waiting to be used in the beer-making process.  For example, we saw a large shipment of a particularly rare type of hop that was awaiting experimentation in future brew batches.  My brother (who has done some home brewing) had lots of questions and ended up coming away with several tips for his next round of beer-making.

Every single bottle of Cigar City beer is bottled right on this little machine!

I love that they name their kettles…Below are “Barbie” (there is also a “Ken”) and “C3PO”.

We also discussed the merits of canned vs bottled beer.  Apparently the canning process is not only more efficient, but it’s also better for the beer (keeps the light out and keeps the beer fresher longer).  We got to see prototypes for their soon-to-be released canned versions of two of their most popular beers; Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown Ale.

All in all, for what we got, it was $5 well-spent.  I think most of us would have stayed for another round if we didn’t have to be on our way back in Orlando so soon.

On our way out we bought a 750mL bottle of their experimental Cucumber Saison to take home with us, which turned out to be astonishingly cucumbery.  Very different from any other beer I had ever tried, but refreshing and great for summer.


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